PARAMEDIC NEIL SWEETING
I remember when we heard abandon the site, I said, wow, this would be really good to keep with us. So I started pushing this cart, and I got stuck in the doorway with it, when we started hearing this rumble. I can remember ? I specifically remember this like twisting sound of metal. We were probably about half a block away from the complex at this point . You heard a big boom, it was quiet for about ten seconds. Then you could hear another one. Now I realize it was the floors starting to stack on top of each other as they were falling. It was spaced apart in the beginning, but then it got to just a tremendous roar and a rumble that I will never forget.
When I dove around the corner, I just curled up into a fetal position and covered my head and just tried to ride it out. There was just this roar. It was pitch-black. I could feel stuff hitting me but not like big debris but smaller stuff that was mixed in with this cloud. It was choking. It was hard to breathe. You couldn't see.
We got in there, and we were in the building like a minute when people just started screaming, "Run, run, run, run." I'm like, oh, my God, now what? It was one of those things, you just run when everybody's running. People are just storming out the back doors and just running up the highway, West Side Highway there. I find out that it was -- one, somebody said there was a bomb, but it turned out it was Con Edison was screaming that there was a gas leak and they were afraid something was going to happen, it was going to blow up.
All of a sudden we heard I guess a rumbling of some sort. ESU had showed up with their vehicle and stuff and said we have to go before they collapse, get everybody out of the area. I wasn't sure which way the building was going to fall, so what I did is -- and with some of the EMTs and paramedics that were standing outside with their vehicles, we just told them to get in the vehicles and start moving, just get out of the area. I ran. I didn't think of taking a vehicle or jumping inside a vehicle. I stood there watching everybody leaving the area. The cloud was worse than actually the first one, I thought.
Already it had to be fairly ? between 5:00. All of a sudden for some reason people started to run again. I was there , and I remember Chief Fellini looking a t me, and he said, "We've got to get out of here real quick." I guess that's when the world whatever came down.
Q. Number seven.
A. Came down. We were standing in the overpass, and I said, to myself, "Boy, these people run awful fast. I' m still here." I remember saying that. Oh, my goodness. I remember Fellini opening up the door, jumping in the car, grabbing onto me and pulling me literally into his car.
PARAMEDIC LOUIS COOK
Thinking that since this was covered and away from the side where debris was falling, I figured it best I should investigate this being a safer area to get people out of. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. I made it up onto the -- I guess you call it the concourse level, the mezzanine level, and onto the foot bridge when I started to hear -- I thought I heard an explosion of some sort, but I kind of dismissed it. I figured, ah, it's just something burning upstairs. I really didn't think of what was going on. Okay. I start going across this pedestrian bridge. I'm the only one on this bridge. I'm walking across it, and then I just remember feeling a rumble and hearing this rumbling sound that was really intense. It actually shook my bones. I turned around to look for the cop, and the cop was gone. I don't know where the hell he went. I didn't know which way to go. I knew number one was on fire. I didn't know which way to go because I thought now the facade or something from number one was coming down, feeling that this rumble was going on. So I ran. I started to run across the pedestrian bridge, and I got about halfway there when a lot of major debris was hitting the ground, really hitting the ground. You can feel it -- it shook your bones, the things hitting the ground, the rumbling. It was extremely loud. I remember everything went black. All the windows -- because there are windows on both sides of this walkway -- started to implode in on me, and ceiling tiles -- they had beautiful ceiling tiles in this thing. I think they were mosaics whatever. They just started falling on top of me.
I was running, and stuff was coming down. This time fire was coming down, because I could feel the heat. I grabbed a firefighter's turnout coat that just seemed to be in front of me. I grabbed it. I threw it over my shoulders. I didn't make it much further than that. I ended up diving down next to some kind of truck. I think it was an ambulance, a van ambulance, of somebody's. I just waited there. I just covered up. This stuff was really hitting the ground. The heavy stuff was really hitting the ground.
It was somewhere -- it was shy of Vesey. It really wasn't very far. I didn't make it to the corner. I just waited there for everything to stop. It was really hot, because this time there was fire. I know that because my neck burned.
We got to Chambers and
PARAMEDIC STEVEN PILLA
Q. Could you please tell me in your own words about the events surrounding that day?
A. Well, let's see, in the morning I got to work like usual. I heard that there was an explosion -- I heard the radio on citywide in the office. So we heard the lieutenant on the scene screaming that he needs every available ambulance. It was very interesting because I was at that explosion in '93. I was on the street at that point. I remember when they sent us down there, we turned to citywide. It was a very similar conversation from that lieutenant: Give me everything you've got here. Smoke coming out of the world -- I thought that it was a tape on. They said no, there was an explosion. We turned the TV on. Sure enough, the tower was on fire. As we're watching the TV, we saw the second plane hit. I'm like, is that another plane that hit? Like God, one could be, two is no longer an accident. The chief rounded us all up, and we started heading down.
Then they said the building was coming down, the other tower. We need to leave. So we all took off. The people who I was taking care of who couldn't walk got out the door before I did. It was unbelievable. You could hear the roar. Outside you could hear the roar of the building coming down.
It just slowly got faster and faster. It was unbelievable. It was like a freight train. You go around the corner only to be greeted by another plume of smoke from the other building. So now ambulances were taking off, and one ambulance stopped and said, "STEVE, get in the ambulance." I jumped in, and we waited there until it settled. No big debris came towards us. It was just the dust and dirt. When that kind of settled, you could see the light again.
At that point we're getting everything together, and now we're going to move to
We walked back. We didn't do any further because building number seven was coming down. That was another problem, to wait for building seven to come down, because that was unsecure. It was about that building came down. Again another plume of smoke. Again if you got too close you had to start running again. In the plumes there was like big debris, small debris, not to mention whatever contaminants were in it.
We were operating in the lobby, and all of a sudden we heard the roar of a jet engine, is what it sounded like. We thought that there was another plane coming into the building. We went from the lobby area into an elevator bank area -- escalators that led into the concourse area. So there was essentially a wall that we went around from the command post area to the escalator area. Not two seconds later debris and dust started to come in, and essentially we were just shut down. Everything was dark, pitch-black.
Q. Before the collapse, was the lobby still lit?
A. The lobby was functional. When I first arrived there, there appeared to be a lot of people there. The Port Authority had set up some type of chain to help lead people out. I would say within the last two minutes before building two had fallen that the bulk of the people were out of the lobby and it was essentially just the Fire, Port Authority and OEM personnel with me. The lobby was essentially clear.
Q. Did you go into any of the stairways or did you stay in the lobby?
A. I just stayed in the lobby at that point. We heard the roar of the jet -- what I thought was a jet coming in, and I believe the others did, and we went into the escalator area for shelter. Everybody got down on the ground. There was some debris that fell. There was a lot of soot and dust. It was pitch-black. The only light that we had was the handheld lanterns, and there was a photographer, a video crew that was following one of the battalion chiefs, that he provided some light.
As I was approaching the corner of West and Vesey, I heard over the radio that the building was leaning. As I was crossing
LIEUTENANT JOHN NEVINS
Q. When the first tower came down, from where you were, debris that was coming down, did it come down into the staging area here or --
Q. Can you remember?
A. No, the only thing that affected us was dust and debris. I had actually been standing -- I was standing facing towards North End Avenue, so I was facing away from the building when there was a - started a loud noise, I remember like a sound, like a cracking sound and Chief Villani ran past me and told me, John, run for your life. As I turned around it appeared to be the top of the tower was shifting. I just started running down towards North End. I didn't stop until I rounded the corner past the Embassy Suites hotel and at that point, there was a lot of dust and debris, tough to see back down.
CAPTAIN JOHN KEVIN CULLEY
Our first thought, normal high-rise operation is you want to get people up to the floors, the fire floors. That's normally done on elevators and we had a problem. There were no elevators in operation. What made it more of a problem is that all those elevators were shut down and there were people in them. So we were actually -- once I had staff that could operate the panel, they could speak to each individual elevator, ask how many people are in the elevator, what floor they were on, and if there's anyone injured, and I was passing that information on to the incident commander.
We had no elevators. The only report that I remember was that somebody I believe in the FBI had a telephone conversation with somebody on the 51st floor reporting that there's jet fuel on that floor. It wasn't clear to us exactly what floor the impact was on, but I knew it was higher than that.
Q. At that point, other Chiefs were arriving? And did Giuliani make it?
A. I know that after the second plane hit, sometime before the south tower fell, we had word that Giuliani was going to be arriving. So we were pretty aware that he was going to be coming. He never did come into the north tower. I actually spoke with him later. I know that he got onto
I haven't seen any of the TV. So I know that the tower doesn't come down instantly. It starts coming down. What we saw or heard was all the material falling, all the debris falling, like when the plane hit, debris fell. We hear the debris falling and it's coming through the windows on the south side of the north tower, and then we started hearing this noise, this roaring noise. When that was apparent, the group that I was with -- again, I was on the north wall of the north tower.
Q. Northwest wall.
A. We found an opening and ran what I thought was directly down a set of stairs. I found out later we actually were in a hallway for a while and then ducked into some stairs. My belief is that we actually ran out of the building enclosed. The stairwell we were in was probably inside of 6 World Trade.
Q. You knew the building was coming down?
A. No. We were reacting. There was no logical thought. You were reacting to the noise. The noise was getting louder and louder. It was like a jet engine or a train coming at you. So we just ran and ducked. Then you got the debris cloud. We were with the chaplain, Chaplain Judge. When the debris had cleared -- the noise stopped and we were covered in dust. You couldn't see.
So I started walking north up
EMT SAMUEL HARRIS
As I related back to Chief Gombo ? or I was getting ready to walk out and tell Chief Gombo what I was told, that's when tower one started to pancake and collapse. The only thing that I remember was the guy in front of me who was standing there in awe of just the earthquake feel, for myself as well.
LIEUTENANT BRENDAN WHELAN
We made relatively quick time. On the way down we were about maybe two or three minutes out from where we were told to report. We were told to report at West and
They didn't hear the transmission in the back, of the collapse. I didn't realize the collapse was the whole building. I thought some of the facade had fallen off. It would never occur to me that the whole building came down.
I was looking to report in to the staging area, and we couldn't find the staging area at this point. Within 45 seconds you heard the building start to buckle. I looked up in total amazement. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The next thing, I could see the top floors basically imploding all the way down.
Q. How close were you at this point?
A. We were probably 100, 150 feet from Six World Trade. As it started to come down, my first reaction was -- I was looking at the building. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I turned, all my guys were standing there, and I screamed at them to run. We had had all our rollups, our bags, and we actually had a couple of the extra cylinders there. My probie said -- I saw him go down to start grabbing the equipment, and I said, "What are you doing?" He's said, "I'm going to grab --" I said just run. We started to make our way up the West Side Highway, and as we were running you could hear the roar. You were looking over your shoulder actually as the building was coming down. I don't know how long it took the building to come down, maybe ten seconds.
FIREFIGHTER MAUREEN MC ARDLE-SCHULMAN
There was a guy with a little TV, like a civilian, hooked it up to a building with an outlet. He said, there is eight planes all together and they only found four and, you know, we're getting bomb scares on this building and we're running for our lives. I said, "Where are we supposed to go?" He said, "Go by the water."
Q. And there is supposed to be a guy shooting at you?
A. Yes. "Go by the water at least there is no building there." I said, "But these buildings are so big. If they come down, it doesn't matter." So we went running, not knowing where to go. So finally I get back to the rig and I said, "I got a call my husband." I just called him and told him I was going in the tower. The tower just imploded.
We're standing there and I look up. The second tower starts with the ring of fire. Some puffing and bouncing.
Q. Just like the first one?
A. So he said, "It's going, just like the first one."
FIREFIGHTER THOMAS HANSARD
I was here at work, changing tours. They said that an airplane hit the
Q. That's right.
A. We got up on the roof and saw the explosion, not knowing that it was a second plane hitting the
We had no water pressure. We had some hose lines run. There was no water pressure, and we were just trying to put the fire out and make a push.
EMT JOHN ROTHMUND
At that time we were looking at the top of the towers and all the rubble and people coming off, and all of a sudden you heard ? it sounded like another airplane, or a missile. It was like a slow shake. The whole ground just vibrated and shook. We just told everybody to run, run into a building, let's go, run, run, run. We ran off of
Right before we got anywhere near the towers, the other one -- you couldn't see the towers. You looked up and you couldn't see what was there or not. There was nothing but smoke. All of a sudden it happened again, the same exact sound, the same thing.
Q. The noise and the vibrations?
A. The noise and the vibrations. At that point everything -- it just came down.
Again, we didn't know what was going on. We thought it was a bomb, you know, like planes were dropping from the sky or missiles were hitting. We didn't know what the hell was going on.
FIREFIGHTER FRANK SWEENEY
We're standing there for a short period of time. I remember the lieutenant turned to Scott and I and said, "You know, this could be a terrorist thing. Maybe it was a bomb or something." I can't remember his exact words. Shortly thereafter Scott said, "What's wrong with the flight patterns around here?" I said, "What are you talking about?" And the south tower blew up. Scott said, "That was a plane." I said, "Scott, it was not a plane. It was probably another bomb." He said, "No, I saw it. It was a plane." Then a chief came up to him and started yelling at Scott saying, "Are you sure you saw a plane?" He was like getting angry. He wanted to make sure that it was a plane that Scott saw. Scott said, "Yes, I saw it." That's when things really started changing. You could see the fear in a lot of people's faces.
Q. The plane never came over your head, then?
A. No. That was south of us. That was south of us.
Q. Are you still looking up at the north tower?
A. Yeah, I'm looking at the north tower. The south tower is going. Somewhere in this time -- it's really hard to tell time frames, but I saw Giuliani with Von Essen, and they were going to what I believe was the command post. It was set up like maybe in front of the Marriott Hotel, somewhere around there, maybe on the West Side Highway, yeah, in front of
The lieutenant said, "Let's go, 3 Engine." I bent over to pick up the hose, and I hear what sounded like firecrackers and a low rumble. I look up, and the south tower ? I could see the top part of the siding overlapping the bottom side of the siding. The siding actually was like this. Then I saw the dirt above that. I ran. I was right behind Scott. Scott ran into the Winter Garden and got against a concrete pillar, and I just hugged the pillar with Scott. Aguilera was right behind me. I thought we were dead. I thought the tower was coming down on top of us. I thought we were gone. It was a loud rumble.
Then the rest of the day we just spent running from bomb scares and gas leaks. Stuyvesant school had a gas leak. The World Financial had a gas leak or bomb or something.
FIREFIGHTER SCOTT HOLOWACH
At that time, I started walking towards Engine 3. Engine 3 drove south to the south pedestrian bridge to make a U turn to come back and as I'm walking towards the Engine to find out what Lieutenant Walsh wanted us to do, I heard the sound of a jet plane. I looked up and saw it pretty close and I was like holy shit. What's going on with the flight patterns. All of a sudden, the wings turned and it dove right into the building and it was screwed up. At that time Chief Ganci was behind me and he thought there was another explosion in the north tower and that's when I turned around and said Chief, listen, there is a second plane that hit the other tower. He was like no no no no, we have another explosion. I said no, Chief, I witnessed it. I watched the plane hit the other tower. He is like are you sure. I said Chief, I'm 100 hundred percent positive I watched the second plane hit the other tower. That's when Ganci got on the radio and called for the military.
In the meantime we were sitting there and something gave me a gut feeling that something was going to happen, so I turned to the guys and I said listen, if anything happens, I said let's dive into this building because the Winter Garden, the staircase is pretty solid and there is two hallways. We will run to the right. Shortly after that, sure enough, I heard ? I don't know even -- I guess a rumbling sound. I looked up and I see the whole 70th floor basically like buckle out and start crumbling down the outside of the building. At the time I grabbed two other guys and said let's get the hell out of here. We dove into the building and after the rumbling stopped ?
Q. Would have been south tower collapsing?
A. The south tower.
Q. You could see it from your position?
A. Yes. I visually watched the 70 floor. It looked like almost it was buckling outwards and then it just went down the outside of the building, just like scaled the outside of the building and it just started pancaking and that's when I grabbed the two guys and the third guy followed us in. We dove into the hallway to the right of the staircase and huddled the wall.
We were there a short period of time and that's when we heard the north tower coming down and noticed the big dust cloud and we started running north towards the water.
Like I said, after the second collapse, and the dust started settling, we went back and grabbed whatever gear we could and headed north to the end of the Pier and then went back to the West Side Highway is where they were mustering everybody and they kept on pushing us north because they thought there was a gas leak and a bomb in the American Express building. They kept on moving us north of the high school there.
PARAMEDIC WILLIAM SIMON
We must have gotten two to three blocks south of
EMT RENAE O'CARROLL
We went down
The building wasn't down yet. I was getting ready to pull out, and the transportation officer waved me over. He wanted to tell me what hospital to go to.
A. I had my back turned towards the building, because we were directly in front of the building at Church and Vesey. I had my back to him. He was facing the building, looking over my shoulder. He looked up, and he had the look of fear on his face. I heard something that sounded like marbles crashing down. At that point I looked behind me. I heard everyone say run. I looked behind me, and it was a gigantic blob of ash and molt and fire and everything just behind you, and I ran. Everyone was running. I tried to grab people. People was grabbing on to me. We were just running, running, running. I have never seen anything like that before. I understand what someone says I looked death in the face. That was death coming to me. That's all I know. I'm running. I'm ahead of it. Everyone's running, and it's just a stampede. I'm about ten feet in front of it, running, actually sprinting because I'm an athlete and I'm running. What happened when I got to the corner, because I remember my feet hitting, coming off the sidewalk, another blob of stuff came around.
LIEUTENANT WILLIAM RYAN
Q. What did you think you were responding to at that point?
A. Well, we knew we had fire. We knew we had partial collapse.
Q. From an explosion or --
A. Yes. Well, we heard a loud boom when we were getting ready to dock the ferry. Probably the jet fuel igniting, I assume.
We couldn't tell where we were. I mean, I'd even worked down there seven years. I didn't know where I was standing in the street.
Q. It was very foggy?
A. Visibility possibly 30 feet at best and you could only see shadows. You could see several fires, dozens of fires, things blowing up, cars on fire, fire trucks, 113 where I was working for a while on fire. I've never seen anything like it. No one ever has. Chaos.
We still had no idea what was going on. I didn't know the towers had both collapsed all the way. We didn't know. A couple of guys I've talked to since then said they didn't know. No one knew. Then we just started more lines trying to put out some of the fires. At that time we had no idea of the magnitude of what we were up against. It was like pissing in the street. We just started knocking down fires. There were all kinds of fires all in here. There was a big fire going right here on
I remember Chief Hayden saying to me, "We have a six-story building over there, a seven-story building, fully involved." At that time he said, "7 has got fire on several floors." He said, "We've got a ten-story over there, another ten-story over there, a six-story over there, a 13-story over there." He just looked at me and said, "Fuck 'em all. Let 'em burn." He said, "Just tell the guys to keep looking for guys. Just keep looking for the brothers. We've got people trapped. We've got to get them out."
Then we found out, I guess around , that they thought 7 was going to collapse. So, of course, we've got guys all in this pile over here and the main concern was get everybody out, and I guess it took us over an hour and a half, two hours to get everybody out of there.
Q. Initially when you were there, you had said you heard a few Maydays?
A. Oh, yes. We had Maydays like crazy.
Q. You were getting radio transmissions?
A. There were people talking. The guys I've talked to that were with us heard voices and were shouting to people. We had heard pass alarms, but then we didn't hear voices, no more pass alarms. The heat must have been tremendous. There was so much fucking fire there. This whole pile was burning like crazy. Just the heat and the smoke from all the other buildings on fire, you couldn't see anything. So it took us a while and we ended up backing everybody out, and that's when 7 collapsed.
EMT MARK MAZUR
After I parked my truck, I started taking my equipment out and all of a sudden I heard this sound. It sounded like a jet, a high, whistling sound. There was like a rumble behind it. It was like a jet with a locomotive behind it. I heard people screaming. All of a sudden, the firemen that were behind me were throwing their hose packs down. When I came out of the back of the truck, I looked up and I saw the second tower coming down. The second tower was coming down. Everybody just started to run down the West Side Highway. So with this I jumped out of the truck. A police car was coming up. It was snaking the traffic like I did. He stopped behind my truck, threw it in reverse and was going back. I jumped on his hood, because I can't run that fast. I rode that for about a hundred feet. He hit a car, and when he hit the car, I rolled off the hood again and I just kept on running down the street.
Q. Was he going back up north?
A. Yeah. When the building came down, it had to be like a ten-story dust cloud or storm that came after us, and you didn't know what the hell was in there. All you saw was papers and you could see like the light in the papers. You didn't know if it was glass or whatever. It just turned the whole street dark, and it just came over. The best I could describe it is like a tidal wave that was coming towards us.
Again, we didn't find out it was a terrorist attack until we went to that safe area by
A. Then about five minutes later what really scared the hell out of us, we heard a jet coming down. It was an F-16 that came roaring up the
LIEUTENANT GREGG HADALA
While I was doing that, they said look out, look out and the second tower crumbled and the shock wave and debris came. I had the big bus with me and another truck, the equipment truck. There was one medic with us. Everybody took cover. Most of the people I was with, I didn't -- I was away from my vehicle. I was going to dive under a truck. It was a police truck and some guy was in it already. He said get in there. It's open. A Con Ed guy or something, so I rolled up the windows and the dust, the shock wave passed over.
Q. Any particular event that stands out in your mind for -- or struck you as odd or anything like that?
A. Just actually the collapse and the sound it made. It was like a strange sound, rumbling, not the loudest thing you ever heard, not like a boom explosion type thing, but just strange. How fast it was collapsing, you just started running. Looking back and seeing all the pictures they got after and the videos they are showing over and over again.